My days here at the monastery in Ambialet have slowly started to dwindle without my noticing them. It seems like only yesterday that it was March 24th and we were returning from spring break, where I got to experience Paris, Dublin, and Rome to the fullest. Each place has left an irreplaceable mark upon my soul that I’ll carry with me forever.
Paris is every bit as dream-like as it is made out to be. Standing at the foot of the Eiffel Tower as it sparkles at night is utterly surreal. When it rains, I felt like I was walking through an old black and white film as I wove through the timeless streets; Paris takes on this beautifully dark quality on a cloudy evening that is unlike any other place on Earth. The windy bridges that arc over the Seine River are perfectly designed for hand-holding lovers and solitary dreamers.
If Paris is the city of light, Dublin is the city of sound. Music seems to seep out from every crevice of the city, saturating the place with the spunk and vitality of good Irish craic. Craic is difficult to describe without experiencing it firsthand, but the best I can offer is that it refers to the uniquely Irish brand of fun that is found in sharing music, conversation, and laughter with others. Even that description doesn’t quite do it justice; you haven’t lived until you’ve stomped the floor of an Irish pub to the beat of a Celtic band. We left the heart of Dublin for one day to visit the Irish National Stud in Kildare and got a taste of the more untamed regions of the Emerald Isle. When I return (and that is definitely when and not if!) I hope to spend some more time visiting the western coast. There was something captivating about Ireland’s wild beauty that grabbed hold of my soul, or perhaps I found a piece of myself there — either way, the spirit of Ireland will stick with me forever.
Rome commanded my attention in a way quite unlike any of the other European cities. The Colosseum and Roman Forum stood proud against the more modern sections of the city, constant reminders of Rome’s glory days. In Italy, pleasure is not a luxury, it is a way of life. The city seemed to insist upon enjoying the delight of cold gelato and every possible variety of pasta. In my sun-filled days there, I least noticed the passage of time from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, and day-to-day.
Returning to Ambialet felt so much like coming home, and a home it truly has become. Our group has bonded in such a way that we are more like family than acquaintances. It has been such a joy to experience all of the little quirks of living in the monastery. We have a world all our own on this hilltop and I wouldn’t trade the memories I have made for anything. A quote written on the wall here reads, “I met a lot of people in Europe, I even encountered myself.” I cannot agree with this sentiment more; I feel that I have grown so much since my first day, and at the same time, I feel so much more like myself. I am a firm believer that each place you visit, each person you meet, each experience that you allow to touch your heart gives you a little piece of yourself that you never knew existed, and at the end of your days you are left with a beautiful mosaic of life. My time in Europe has given me so many more pieces of ME, and has further inspired me to never stop exploring and discovering myself.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch